History of Ship Harbor Interpretive Preserve
Many readers will remember the early efforts to create SHIP by many volunteers and financial supporters. Many hours were spent laying the foundation for a project that would benefit an endangered ecosystem, and at the same time provide an outdoor classroom for students and the public to learn about the biota and history of Ship Harbor wetlands and shoreline. Anacortes Parks Foundation has included a short history on the project, believing the public might like to know something about the origin and early planning of SHIP.
In late 1997, Gale Brink, Commissioner for the Port of Anacortes approached Jim Falk, President of Anacortes Parks Foundation to see if it was interested in developing a wetlands interpretive center at Ship Harbor. The Foundation expressed an interest and formed a Steering Committee led by Jim Falk with Dr. Mark Backlund representing the environmental community and Evergreen Islands, Dr. Steven Sulkin, Director, Shannon Point Marine Center representing the education and scientific disciplines, and Gale Brink representing the public. The Ship Harbor Interpretive Preserve (SHIP) was born.
The project was accepted and funds were sought from State and other agencies to initially plan the effort. Some 60 volunteers rolled up their sleeves and inventoried animal and plant life, studied hydrology, researched social and economic history, planned a trail system that would best protect the ecosystem, looked for ‘best ways’ to educate local students and the public, and….began a search for funds. Working partners were Shannon Point Marine Center, City of Anacortes, Port of Anacortes, Samish Indian Nation, Washington State Ferry System, Evergreen Islands, Washington State Department of Ecology, Anacortes School District, and most importantly…the general public.
The Steering Committee, with some 60 volunteers worked continuously for several years on the functions of trail planning, funding, education, site photography, wild and plant life inventories, and hydrology monitoring projects. Some $76,000 in grants and in-kind donations was raised for brochures, planning, engineering, and other infrastructure needs. Volunteers however, were constantly frustrated with problems of property ownership, developer/permit issues, environmental and other concerns, and it wasn’t until until Gilbane, a qualified developer agreed to purchase the property from the Port of Anacortes and donate the wetlands to the City that real progress was made. Gilbane, a environmentally-friendly developer, also doubled its residential impact obligation to the City with funding to go to SHIP. By this time, Anacortes Parks Foundation had obtained a Shoreline Permit for the project and applauded the transfer of the property to the City of Anacortes allowing SHIP to be developed. The City then assumed the responsibility to carry on the construction of the SHIP interpretive trail system.